The Comfort Pursuit

‘Tech 4’ Academic Networking: ResearchGate

Photo by Dietmar Becker, sourced from Unsplash
Photo by Dietmar Becker, sourced from Unsplash

Work in academia is grounded on knowledge development and exchange of information. Some believe this should be a good reason for academics to be interested and get engaged in social networks. ResearchGate is built on this idea. Its main purpose is to facilitate the exchange of papers and research information. What differentiates this network from many others is the discussions it generates and the way it encourages researchers to share raw data and failed or unpublished work as well as good ones. The intention is to stop researchers wasting their time trying what has been tried before.

I do believe this idea is a good one. Making failures available to the world is a difficult step, especially in the highly critic academic circle. However it has a great potential of saving time, especially for students on the stage of developing PhD proposals. I remember myself thinking that surely someone had thought about what I was considering for the research proposal, or maybe the study couldn’t be found anywhere because it simply wasn’t worthy. ResearchGate could be a good place to make this information available.

This social network seems to mix features of Facebook and LinkedIn in a more professional fashion than Facebook and more research based than LinkedIn. It includes profile pages, groups, job listings, comments space, a ‘like’ button – for comments – and ‘follow’ button – to follow researchers. ResearchGate also has a ‘RGscore’ which at first glance might look like a simple indication of the researcher’s ‘reputation’, however it reflects a combination of published papers, citations and activity on the website. This is a questionable way of developing a reputation in academia. At the moment, if the researcher adds random questions and these questions get many answers the RGscore increases, however if they don’t keep active the score decreases every week or so.

Summing up, some pros and cons can be pointed out:

Pros:

  • Posting publications and related documents that haven’t been published in the original version;
  • Be part in discussions if you’re looking for advice or have suggestions on a particular topic;
  • Getting notifications of new publications by researchers you follow;
  • Access to papers that have not been published.

Cons:

  • It frequently associates wrong papers to the researcher who is logged in and gives them as suggestion of papers to be added to the profile. It seems to search for a name in common instead of any association with any specific areas of research. If the search included the area along with a name, at least it could expose the researcher to potentialy interesting papers;
  • It sends email invitation to co-authors in case you haven’t unmarked the ‘invite my co-authors’ box;
  • RG score criteria.

It seems to have more pros than cons besides certainly being a quickly evolving social network. It has also recently been funded by investors such as Bill Gates, which could mean a promise of a lot more development in the near future.

Finally, the most used social networks in certain places do seem to depend on the geographic location. Have you heard about Orkut? Orkut was the father of Google+ (as it was also a Google platform) and was widely used in Brazil and India. When I first heard about Facebook and how popular it was around the world I couldn’t believe the social network we used in Brazil was so restricted to a few territories. The same seems to happen with the academic social networks. While here in New Zealand ResearchGate seems to be the way to go, I have found more Brazilian researchers in Academia.edu, topic for next week’s Tech4.

Have you been using ResearchGate? What are your impressions?

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